The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:9-18
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. Micah 5:2-5
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:1-14
The scriptures read this morning were written by various men over several thousand years, from different professions, in different languages and from different parts of the world. These passages all point to the same thing: a coming Savior, a Messiah who would restore man into right relationship with God and defeat the power of darkness. These aren’t the only scriptures that speak of a Messiah. In Genesis we read the account of Abram, who would later be called Abraham. He lived 2,000 years before Jesus was born.
God spoke to Abraham and told him that he would be a father to a son and eventually the father of many nations and his offspring would be a blessing to all. When God made His promise to Abraham, he was 75. His wife, Sarah, was 65 and they were childless. Abraham waited for 25 years as God continued to promise him a son, an heir. Finally at the age of about 100, his wife Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac. What joy Abraham must have had over a long-awaited desire and longing fulfilled! Abraham loved his son. He had longed for a son, waited for that son, and cared for him more than anything else. When Isaac became a young man, God spoke to Abraham again:
He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2
We may wonder how God could ask Abraham to make such a sacrifice, but after reading the entire account, we understand that God was testing Abraham’s faith and He provided another sacrifice in the final moment. Before that moment, when they were close to the place of sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “I see the fire and the wood but where is the lamb? Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham responds that God Himself will provide the lamb. That is what Christmas is about: at the right time in history, in the right place, God provided another sacrifice, the only sacrifice sufficient for our sins. When Abraham offered Isaac on that mountain in Moriah, it was a foreshadow of what God would do for us. “For God so loved the world He gave his only Son as an offering for our sin” (John 3:16). God sacrificed His son Jesus as an offering for our sin, the final and true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus also came willingly and obediently but He never asked God, “Where is the sacrifice?” Jesus knew His call. The wood Isaac carried represented the cross and the fire represented the judgment of God for our sins. At Christmas we celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus. We remember Mary the virgin mother of Jesus, the manger, the angels, the magi, the wise men and the star. All of those are signs of Christmas that point to Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior. The signs point to the One descended from Abraham who would be a blessing to all nations and who would bring peace:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14
Peace is what we all want. If there is a pandemic in our world today, it is unrest and violence. There is war and unrest throughout Europe; the Middle East is filled with violence and war; the African continent has been torn apart by violence and civil wars; we hear the familiar chants of protestors here in the US. This national violence crosses borders, ages, ethnicity, religions and financial status. Unrest and violence has crept into the family structure too with the dissolution of families and instances of abuse. Where does this violence and unrest begin? It begins with us, with individuals who are not at peace with God or themselves. It begins in the heart of every human:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1
The passage goes on to say that you desire and do not have, so you murder and covet. You do not have because you do not ask God and when you do ask, you ask for selfish reasons. The problem first and foremost is our hearts. There will never be peace in any man or in any land until there is peace with God. Peace with God means that we are no longer at war with Him, we are no longer opposed to Him. We have rebellious hearts that want things our way for our glory and in that pursuit we have offended God through our sin but Jesus came to bring peace. Jesus brings peace with God that ushers in the peace of God in our hearts and contentment in our souls. Jesus came to make a way for peace between God and man and among men.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14
There is peace among men with whom God is pleased. Who is God pleased with? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), meaning we have all offended Him. We have all displeased Him. We were born children of wrath, in darkness, dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:3). We are enemies of God (Romans 5:10).
How do we become those with whom He is pleased? What can we do? How can we make up for the things we have done? The good news is that God doesn’t expect us to because we can’t! There is nothing we could do on our own to pay back or make up for our offenses to Him. This brings us back to the reason for Christmas, for celebrating the birth of Jesus. God sent His son with whom He was very pleased to be payment for our offenses.
Just after Jesus was baptized God spoke and said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). After Jesus revealed His glory to three of His disciples, God spoke and said, “This is my son in whom I am pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus pleased His heavenly Father from the beginning. We find the Father’s pleasure in us through Jesus.
God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were enemies, Jesus died for us. We were enemies yet Jesus made the way. God made Him who knew no sin to become sin so we could be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ righteousness makes us right before God and puts us in a position where God is pleased with us.
Through Jesus we have peace with God. We are no longer enemies but adopted in as children who can cry out to Him “Abba, Father.” Once we have peace with God we can have the peace of God. We can be confident that He is with us in the worst storm and confident that even in the best times, He is still better. We also have peace with one another through Christ.
Jesus Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He broke down the dividing wall between man and God and between us who are in Christ. “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17).
The angels were right when they said, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among those with whom He finds pleasure.” Not all will experience the peace of God but those who believe in the atoning work of Christ will. For all those who cry out to God and say, “I know I have sinned and I have offended a holy God and He is not pleased. But I also know Jesus, with whom God the Father is pleased, who died for my sin, paid for my sin and gives His righteousness to all who believe and by faith I receive that Gift.” Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). With faith in Jesus, we please Him.
This Christmas let’s not stop at the signs of Christmas but look at the One to whom they point. Jesus came for a reason, to save us from the eternal consequences of our sins, to save His creation for His glory and our eternal good, to restore us into right relationship with Him. There are two kinds of people, those that know His peace and those that do not.
If you have drifted from the presence and peace of God this is the day to repent. There is no greater way to spend Christmas than on your knees in His presence, experiencing His peace. If you have never before confessed Jesus as your Lord, today is the day of salvation and now is the time.
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9, 13